Sir Sam Jonah’s recent speech courted opprobrium from many “politunists”, whose only stock in trade is posing as well-meaning citizens and taking advantage of a broken system. As any observers would imagine, the Old Gold Fox’s reflections of where Ghana is headed was meant to open a new can of worms that could feast on his ornamented flesh. But as he rightly pointed out, he is at the end of a career that must be enviable to anyone with ambition. Sam Jonah is the pinnacle of many things for many in his generation and many more to come. For those privileged enough to live through the transition from black and white media to social media, he was the toast of many publications. He exuded confidence, showed resolve and from afar seemed like a charming person. I admit that my description of him is purely based on media portrayals than from any accurate picture for those with closer association or the benefit of any relationship. But his speech that has suddenly become the basis of many media conversations also demonstrates that media agenda setting could be easy depending on who says what.
Anyone else could say these same things but be shrugged off by agenda setters in various newsrooms. It had to come from a ‘big man’ with a successful career and now willing and able to raise issues with the status quo. That not withstanding, many of the issues raised touched the core of our nationhood and raised questions about the type of nation we are building and the benefits subsequent generations could reap. One tweet said Sir Sam’s diagnosis was “negative but a reflective picture of where we’ve come from and where we are. It may be light on solutions but strong on diagnosis. Let’s all reflect on these things as citizens and not as partisans.” This got me thinking. Sir Sam? Who is bleeding the piles of today’s most influential man in Ghana? The jab about his speech being light on solutions could not be lost on the most cursory observer and began the dark art that it set out to perform but one cannot say it was successful, given the comments that followed that tweet.
However, though many thought the reflections were timely, individuals who lack any shred of integrity in both the media and political space have raised questions of Sir Sam’s youth development and employment agenda. If Kofi Annan of blessed memory made these remarks before his passing, would he have been spared? Think of it: a man who lied on national radio and subsequently recanted raising questions about the youth agenda and empowerment record of another with a distinguish international record because his speech exposed (mis)governance? This country has gone bonkers because the likes of Paul Adom-Otchere want to be the only ones with the microphone. The Sam Jonahs who have seen it all are not allowed to subject anything to scrutiny. They can only observe or reserve their criticisms for political parties they hate. How very uninformed and traitorous, to suggest that the only people deserving of critiquing political office holders are people Paul approves of.
First of all, Sir Sam knew of that possibility and addressed it in his speech; it tells of a man who understands his people. By Adom-Otchere’s empty rant on his moribund show, no one except him and people he approves of should be allowed to cast verdict over everything in this country. What makes him more Ghanaian than the rest of us? Is it the wearing of kilts? He must cut the crap and focus on being a journalist, if he sees himself as one. Journalists don’t speak for power, they speak truth to power, so he’s either a journalist or a PR consultant for government using his show, like others in the space over the years, to hoodwink unsuspecting viewers. If anyone else has a viewpoint similar or contrary to the gold magnate’s, they must voice it out. They must not be prevented by individuals taking pride just in voices that sing their approved chorus.
Their paymasters have since unleashed the media and political attack-dogs because truth about our political leadership has somehow wobbled into the outer space. A certain individual has dared to voice dissent against the political class and it tends to suggest that the current administration has not done much. Social media shade-throwers can be forgiven for their ignorance, lack of substance and its attendant poor grammar. But we can’t spare known media professionals, who found it convenient to criticise one regime but will today suggest that civil society operatives speak as though they alone hold all the wisdom and knowledge in the country. That politicians could be much qualified or better experienced than the former and probably their actions must be seen as favours to the rest of the population. These are people who know better and cannot pretend that politicians don’t deserve much flak than they ever get in this country under the Fourth Republic.
Coming from a man of his stature, one can assume that he’s paid his debt or like he puts it, he’s “no longer afraid of the butcher’s sharp knife”. All true lovers of this Republic must commend Sir Sam along with Prof Gyimah Boadi, and a few others, who despite being “over-the-hill”, feel a need to take issue with the status quo. Sir Sam’s speech on the state of Ghana formed a silver lining in the cacophony of voices that swarm our media space daily. These weightier critical voices in the last couple of months must give despairing young people hope that all is not lost in the midst of incessant grabbing to build family generational wealth. They give an indication that some independent-minded statesmen still dwell in our near-godforsaken territory.
The young lady who first shared the speech with me reiterated her lack of hope upon reading the speech from online portals. The content of the statement by the renowned statesman invoked and added to her resolve to also benefit from the spoils (national cake) because in her view, the reverse gear on that slippery slope, where Ghana finds itself, isn’t changing in this lifetime. It’s hard to disagree with that viewpoint. Everything seems to work perfectly only for the political class, the rest of population can rot on their poor roads, life-taking public transport system, poor quality education and mostly killer healthcare infrastructure, utter lack of means of livelihood and under-employment that compels even the decent of minds to want to cut a corner. It is okay to point people to great initiatives, but if those initiatives cannot turn their lives around, soon the emperor may find his dangling modifier tacking out of his flap, without any warning.
True as Sir Sam’s argument that fear is the reason many have resigned themselves into silence is, others also consider it an exercise in futility to shout into empty spaces, when the Almighty isn’t the object of supplication. The political class has demonstrated through their actions under all the leaders of the current dispensation that they will do as they please and all institutions of state will go along. Examples abound in ways governments over the years only choose to satisfy the executive and compromises the other arms to achieve its ends.
One cannot see the power of citizens at this point. When politicians want votes, they will risk everything including the lives of people they purport to serve. In 2020, they defied science and wisdom to expose their gullible supporters to the dangers of Coronavirus (Covid-19) and turned round to accuse the population of failing to observe Covid-19 protocols during the yuletide, hence the rising cases at the start of this year. They find answers to all questions bordering on their comfort. As the vehicular traffic situation became unwieldy before 2008, I used to say on Radio Univers that if members of the administration (including President Kufuor) failed to fix it, they would join us in the traffic once they left office. It was beautiful to see subsequently that the President was to have his motorcade for life. He could ignore the traffic situation and live as an Arabian king even out of office? He can choose not to fix it then.
Many have found ways to get by the deteriorating social fabric of this country that started long before now, but is reaching a crescendo under our only leader, who spent forty years of his life wanting the same job he has today. Why must anyone else bother? They need to insulate themselves from the quagmire by seeking out for themselves, especially when opportunities are limited and the population keeps growing. Many young people begin to recognise the dysfunction of our country during national service, when you live away from home without support and have to wait for months before receiving your first allowance just to survive. This surely awakens much consciousness. Until then, many youth hardly care about what happens around them; they get buried in their cellphones and social media, thinking that’s what life is about. It won’t put food on the table.
Anyone living and working outside the cantonments enclave must question the nature of our roads. They sometimes come across, as though the President wants his friends at Abossey Okai to make money off all second-hand automobile users. How can roads in the city be so bad? We should not forget the near scuffle that ensued during a sod cutting at Kpone barrier. The Chief’s anger was justified if you traverse that enclave daily. During the budget debate, it was not shocking for one lawmaker to vehemently criticise the unhealthy vehicular traffic that users of that road endure on a daily basis. The beauty of it is the open extortion from recalcitrant drivers, who take to the shoulders of the road. Commercial vehicle drivers in need of their daily sales, know of the ten Ghana cedis charge, therefore will endanger other road users and weaken the shoulders of the road by driving there and paying their toll. Drivers find no problem at all to jump to the shoulders of even the motorway at the slightest gridlock and sometimes senior officers of the armed forces in Land Cruisers join the craze.
It would be unfair to criticise the police without acknowledging the great effort they put into night roadblocks. But the bad nuts that continue to demand money from road users must be stopped. Now, highway patrol and other police teams demand to search women’s purses. What is the extent of these searches and can they just be conducted without any warrant? One thing is for sure, many in our law-enforcement system, like everywhere else, enjoy abusing their discretionary powers. The difficulty here is that once victimised, many have no cause to appropriate remedy. The President must be aware that this is happening, therefore it must shock us that nothing is being done to curb it because many police operatives are political party recruits, brought into the service by lawmakers and other political party apparatchiks. No society is able to enforce law to the letter if the process of recruitment into the law-enforcement is that compromised. Maybe Sir Sam is unaware of these things, therefore did not address them in his seminal speech, but if he knows and forgot, then, let yours truly remind him and all others who speak the truth that building a nation requires more than mere rhetoric and slogans. It calls for scientific approaches to problems that often do not translate into votes immediately.
If any government is minded to solve youth unemployment, it must know by now that it’s not through any NABCO, NYEP, GYEEDA or similar arrangements that add nothing to anything. We experimented with this before 2008 and are still experimenting with it. Kids born then are in their teens and we must pat politicians on the shoulder because we do not see them fleece us all. If the government, the highest spender, cannot use its purchasing power to create sustainable employment and organise the informal sector to become effective, rewarding and sustainable, it’s a complete waste of everyone’s time. No one in politics was compelled to take that job and if they left, others will take over. Therefore, if you are immune to public criticism, leave public office; otherwise, allow the population to watch and comment on your every move.
The painful truth is that it has taken the Sir Sam Jonahs Prof. Gyima Boadis and H. Kwesi Prempehs too long to voice out against the self-seeking political class. Believers of democracy must celebrate their public discussion of the terrible state of affairs in our country, though belated. Beliefs hinged on pecuniary considerations will obviously blind many, as has become evident from the pulpit, through lecture theatres, surgical beds, court rooms, newsrooms to steering wheels. Nearly all look to the politicians for recognition, support and endorsement. Many who have dared to criticise this government have been put in their ‘rightful places’ and have therefore cowered, allowing those in power a free ride that leads nowhere.
Many pretend not to know or are unaware that lawmakers worked with the Director General of Ghana Education Service, Education Minister and Head of Computer Placement to change placements for their wards and constituents and reassign others to Boarding Schools, when they had originally been given Day Schools. We must be worried about the haste with which religious leaders join the fray in these parochial endeavors, they preach to their congregants to seek God’s favour as they themselves seek men’s favour. The same lawmakers in the last quarter have had the privilege to determine recruitment into the services and the Ghana Education Service. It will be the same situation when the armed forces begin their recruitment. It is common knowledge that people in these services have over the years made it a preserve of their relations and associates, but now, political party leadership has taken over every public institution and we complain about an uneven tripod? We all sat down quietly and watched them unfold and if we remain quiet, soon the real owners of the country will rise and speak and political operatives will have to hide. Events on the continent in the last decade should tell the political class in this country that no flawed system survives the people’s anger.
Yes, you can silence all critical voices and pay people with poor grammar to attack every opposing voice. Impunity and show of power can be the order of the day but it will only be for a while. Ghana, in my view is at its worst point in history. The only saving grace is that people without access to potable water, classroom blocks, health facilities and adequate daily meals, will be the first to queue up for ballots if elections were held today. It will continue for a while, but certainly not forever.
The stab about losing your right to criticise Akufo-Addo if you are not doing anything for the youth or contributing to national development is the most ludicrous. My friend for over fifteen years, now in parliament used the same spasm when I criticised the deteriorating state of affairs back in December 2019. The ignorance therein is that no individual sitting “his somewhere” is criticised for a country’s state. Once you choose public office you carry the burden of the office; therefore, you get a Land Cruiser even if all you have as a badge is a Dining Hall Prefect’s experience. Or as has become very important these days, if you have won elections.
We need to pause to ask journalists their true role in this democracy. Is it to benefit from the spoils? Compete with the political class for fame? Or speak truth to power? When I chose to become a journalist after graduate school, a senior colleague, now practicing public relations in one of the arms of government told me I would be poor if I worked as a journalist. It is the truth; you earn less than five hundred dollars a month even with a graduate degree, but the citizens want the rot in public office exposed by the media. The media can only dig and weed out corruption if its practitioners are well educated, committed to the cause of the nation, and willing to forfeit the privileges of dining with the political class. If the politicians invited you to every dinner as a journalist, the public must be wary of you.
The media that spent many hours rehashing Sir Sam’s speech know or ought to have known all that the Gold Icon said in that speech. As for journalists criticising him for the speech, we all know where they belong. They are only using journalism to boost their deflated egos and lining their pockets. Shame on them! But the former NDC Capo who was pushed out by younger people who saw through his actions, he must know that under this dispensation, only one person has profited from political party summersaulting and the reasons are obvious for any trained mind.
Let’s those with ears listen!
By Kobby Gomez Mensah, Media Practitioner
This write up does not reflect the views of 3news.com and the entire Media General Group